Non-gasoline tax initiatives to fund transportation projects
I have been intending to write a long piece on the federal highway trust fund issue and various initiatives at the state level ("Road taxes are rising, even in tax-averse states," Associated Press ), and the lack of influence the various activities at the state level are having on the issuespace for the federal legislation. Since Congress has just passed interim legislation extending funding for about 10 months ("Senate Passes $8.1 Billion Measure to Replenish Highway, Bridge Repair Fund," Wall Street Journal), I can wait.
We can hope, after the election, that the various state efforts could bubble up with some influence on federal action.
That being said, there are many "bads" about the various initiatives. For example, I have complained that the level of funding for biking infrastructure Pennsylvania's Act 89 doesn't even register as a rounding error on the $2.5 billion five-year plan.
OTOH, Act 89 is helping to fund local transit systems which have been crushed ever since the 2008 Depression/Recession, especially Pittsburgh, and the more recent introducction of a "Super Bus Stop" and a bus shuttle service to large employer sites in suburban Robinson ("Robinson welcomes 'super shelters' for bus riders " and "Act 89 funds rescue 2 transit services," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
Today there is a vote in Missouri on raising the sales tax to fund transportation. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ("Sales tax is least rational solution to highway funding") and others haven't been supportive because they assert that the Governor and Legislature have focused on the sales tax rather than the gas tax as a result of hard core lobbying by the trucking industry.
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Also today there is a vote in Suburban Detroit--Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties--to increase the amount of property tax funding dedicated to the SMART bus system ("Endorsement: Voting for SMART millage is the smart move," Detroit Free Press). An earlier article in March had incredibly disturbing comments from anti-transit folks who take the subsidy of driving for granted.
This fall there will be many similar votes around the country, in Pinellas County, Florida, Seattle, and Clayton County, Georgia, among others.
The Seattle vote is a follow-on to an earlier unsuccessful vote this year for all of King County, Washington, to fund the local bus system. (Fixed rail transit by Sound Transit is funded through a different system.)
The vote passed in Seattle but failed in the County, so the City of Seattle is putting forward a tax vote to preserve the city's bus service, although it does call for an increase in the car registration fee, and even though such a funding increase has been authorized in the State of Washington for a number of years, not one proposal to increase registration fees for transportation purposes has been passed.